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Dynamic macroecology and the future for biodiversity

Mokany, Karel, Harwood, Thomas D., Williams, Kristen J., Ferrier, Simon
Global change biology 2012 v.18 no.10 pp. 3149-3159
climate, climate change, community structure, habitats, models, species diversity, Tasmania
Reliable projections of climate‐change impacts on biodiversity are vital in formulating conservation and management strategies that best retain biodiversity into the future. While recent modelling has focussed largely on individual species, macroecology has the potential to add significant value to these efforts, by incorporating important community‐level constraints and processes. Here we show how a new dynamic macroecological approach can project climate‐change impacts collectively across all species in a diverse taxonomic group, overcoming shortfalls in our knowledge of biodiversity, while incorporating the key processes of dispersal and community assembly. Our approach applies a recently published technique (DynamicFOAM) to predict the present composition of every community, which form the initial conditions for a new metacommunity model (M‐SET) that projects changes in composition over time, under specified climate and habitat scenarios. Applying this approach at fine resolution to plant biodiversity in Tasmania (2,051 species; 1,157,587 communities), we project high average turnover in community composition from 2010 to 2100 (mean Sorensen's dissimilarity = 0.71 (±7.0 × 10⁻⁵)), with major reductions in species richness (32.9 (±0.02) species lost per community) and no plant species benefitting from climate change in the long term. We also demonstrate how our modelling approach can identify habitat likely to be of high value for retaining rare and poorly reserved species under climate change. Our analyses highlight the potential value of this dynamic macroecological approach, that incorporates key ecological processes in projecting climate change impacts for all species simultaneously and uses simple macroecological inputs that can be derived even for highly diverse and poorly studied taxa.